Sunday, October 6, 2013

The notion that China will "rule the world,' is profoundly overstated and incorrect. China has a very long way to go before it becomes — if it ever becomes — a true global power. And it will never "rule the world." China remains a lonely power, lacking close friends and possessing no allies.

Prof. David Shambaugh
Said David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director, China Policy Program, in his book "China Goes Global: The Partial Power," published by Oxford University Press on April 29, 2013.

Concerned by the academic profession's tendency to "know more and more about less and less" and its increasing inability to generalize about China's development in all aspects, Prof. Shambaugh undertook the project of writing this book in 2007. As a scholar he felt it his obligation to explain the rise of China which is the big story of the present era. His book is intended to provide better understanding of the "forest" unlike most of the available China studies that give more information about the "trees."

Prof.  Shambaugh says that  the straightforward answer to big questions and speculations arising from China's rise lies in his book's subtitle: China is The Partial Power. His study reveals that the elements of China's global power are actually surprisingly weak and very uneven. He goes on to say that "China is not as important, and it is certainly not as influential, as conventional wisdom holds." Not impressed by China's rise, Prof. Shambaugh, claims that his book is not so much about China's rise as its spread. Most other 'China rise" books are usually based on economic and military studies and comparisons and focus on the conflict between the principal established power (the United States) and the challenging rising power (China).

He has dismissed the "China threat' as a hype. He also disagrees with observers who have already assumed that China will "rule the world.' His view is that such a scenario is not only very much overstated but totally incorrect. According to him China has a very long way to go before it becomes — if it ever becomes — a true global power. And it will never "rule the world." His book reveals that China does have an increasingly broad "footprint" across the globe but lacks the required depth. China's presence varies substantially by sector and region and the nation's strengths are not as strong as they seem on face value. He describes China's appeal, as a "model" for other nations to emulate, as 'weak to nonexistent.'

Prof. Shambaugh calls China a 'lonely power' without close friends and allies. China's closest state-to-state relationship with Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea, which appears harmonious, is fraught with hidden lack of trust. China, in spite of being a member of most international organizations, is not very active. It often stands aside or remains passive when issues concerning international security and global governance have to be dealt with. In such situations, China often makes known what it is against, but rarely what it is for. China never tries to resolve any global problem proactively and positively. Instead, it tries to influence events through nonaction or negative action and passive diplomacy as clear in its stand on issues related with North Korea, Iran, Syria, climate change etc. Prof. Shambaugh highlights China's role in perpetuating global problems by exercising vetoes in the UN Security Council or in supporting dictatorial regimes against Western will by teaming up with Russia and others what might be called as "coalitions of the unwilling."

The findings of Prof. Shambaugh demonstrate that China lacks real global power. Prof. Shambaugh is willing to accept China a global actor without (yet) being a true global power. Prof. Shambaugh follows Harvard Professor Joseph Nye's definition of power - Power is the ability of A to make B do what it would otherwise not do. Merely, resources do not constitute power unless they are used to try to influence the outcome of a situation. The essence of power lies in the conversion of resources into influence, which is the exercise of power. Prof. Shambaugh's study shows that China does not have any real influence on global events except in a very few limited areas of trade and commerce. China is quite active in various parts across the globe but its activities are mainly restricted to trade and commerce including, however, several sensitive sectors like energy, telecommunication, mining and infrastructure. But Prof. Shambaugh's findings indicate that China is not yet influencing or shaping actors or events.

China's global image remains mixed and the majority of the world is very ambivalent about China's rise. This is clear from two major studies carried out annually - one by the Pew (Pew Research Center) and another by BBC (BBC Poll : Attitude towards countries). The two studies when combined provide a clear view of China's global image. In his study, Prof. Shambaugh has quoted a prominent International Relations scholar saying: "There is a combination of insecurity and arrogance in China's behavior at present — insecure at home and arrogant abroad. The government is insecure about a lot of things, so there is an increase in domestic controls. Externally, there is a kind of overconfidence of China's position in the world and a strong reluctance to get involved in foreign entanglements." This perhaps explains China's present dilemma.

Professor Shambaugh is an internationally recognized authority and author on contemporary China and the international relations of Asia, with a strong interest in the European Union and transatlantic issues. He is a frequent commentator in international media, and has contributed to leading scholarly journals such as International Security, Foreign Affairs, The China Quarterly, and The China Journal. (Watch Prof. Shambaugh speaking on "China Goes Global: The Partial Power") 

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